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UK Scientist: IPCC Reform Could Make It Even More Political

A major overhaul of how the UN advises the world on climate change could lead to more mistakes on the impacts of global warming, an Oxford academic has warned.

In a damning report out earlier this week, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was criticised for making a number of errors about the potential impacts of global warming. The most notable mistake was wrongly predicting that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035.

The IPCC was also told to stick to the science rather than straying into the politics of climate change.

The review, by the InterAcademy Council, called for “fundamental reform”, including a more formal review process.

But a leading British academic said the recommendations are in danger of making the situation worse by imposing so much bureaucracy on reviewers they are unable to spend enough time actually assessing the science.

There is also a risk it may lead to top scientists refusing to take part, leaving only Government scientists that are more likely to be influenced by politics.

Dr Myles Allen, Head of the Climate Dynamics Group at the University Of Oxford, said wasting time on red tape could lead to more mistakes.

He pointed out that all the authors and reviewers are unpaid volunteers.

“They could actually make it worse because the more time scientists are spending on bureaucracy the less time they have to deal with the scientific questions they should be dealing with,” he said.

Dr Allen said there was also a risk that the process could become even more political.

“There is a real danger that the only people that are willing to do it are people put forward by the Government, which will further politicise the thing,” he added.

Dr Allen, who will be a reviewer on the next assessment by the IPCC, said most of the mistakes in the last report were in the chapter on regional climate impacts that was “cobbled together” in a rush.

He said the new report should be cut from 3,000 pages to a few hundred and focus on the science rather than case studies from different countries.

The next meeting of the IPCC in South Korea in October is expected to discuss changes to the management and the review process.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said more than 70 British scientists will be involved in the 5th Assessment report, due out in 2014, which will influence future climate change policy around the world.

The Daily Telegraph, 1 September 2010